This is our second Halloween in the new place. Last year we didn’t get any trick or treaters at all, but then last year there were only two other places in addition to ours with any Halloween decorations up, so I suspect our apartment building didn’t look like it was worth stopping at. Several more of our neighbors have lights and jack o’lanterns and such visible, so maybe we will get some this year. The magical-thinker in me also points out that we bought less candy this year than last, so maybe that will cause us to get swamped. We can hope. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
I had planned several more blog posts last week and this week leading up to this, my second favorite holiday, but things have been really weirdly busy. It also feels as if fewer people are doing Halloween stuff. I thought maybe I was just being busy and distracting, but I saw a few posts floating around tumblr where a lot of people were feeling as if there is a lot less Halloween enthusiasm in their social circles, and so forth. A few posts specifically noted that the silly Pumpkin Dance video had not showed up in their social media stream. Which made me realize I hadn’t seen it being posted and shared, either.
I’m planning to stay up a bit after midnight to make at least a symbolic start on NaNoWriMo (since I have to get up and go to work in the morning). Usually long before this we discuss what spooky movies we’re going to watch while hoping for trick-or-treaters. Last year was watched Hocus Pocus and Witches of Eastwick.
It’s been a number of years since we watched Ghost and Mr. Chicken and I can’t remember when we last watched Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; for that matter, I can’t remember how many years it’s been since we watched any of the classic Universal monsters, such as the 1931 Frankenstein, and we have all of those in the collection. On the other hand, I should look through our movie database and see if there is anything spooky that we’ve bought in the last couple of years. I don’t know. Our usual Halloween fair isn’t slasher movies and the like, and tends toward comedies… and this year I’m feeling much more like a good laugh than typical. I suspect we all know why that is…
Anyway, I hope you have wonder Eve of All Hallows!
In just a couple of days November will be here and that means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! In case you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, let me first quote from their website:
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.
On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
There are rules, but for years I participated as a Rebel, until a few years ago when they dropped the one rule that kept making me a rebel.
- Write one 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
Start from scratch.
- Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction.
- Be the sole author of your novel.
- Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
That second bullet is the rule that they changed. Most years I use NaNoWriMo as a motivation to work on some stalled or otherwise unfinished projects rather than starting from scratch, which is why I was always over in the Rebel category. NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun, and I find that having a few friends participating and mutually cheering each other on (and in a couple of cases to try to race against, word-count wise) helps me get a lot of work done.
NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. But I’ve seen people who didn’t think they’d like it come out happy that they’d given it a go.
If you’ve ever wanted to write and have trouble finishing, give it a try. Particularly if the thing that is holding you back is a feeling that whatever you’re writing isn’t good enough, there is something freeing about just focusing on getting the word count up. Leave editing for later. you can revise and correct a horrible draft, but you can’t do that to a blank page.
And it is supposed to be fun, not a chore.
I think I know what I’m going to work on this year. But I’m leaving myself the option to change my mind at the last minute.
Let’s make some fiction!
Every news site on the web was able to obtain pictures of the suspect’s van because it has been notorious since 2016 in that region. People have been taking pictures of all the hateful stickers plastered on the van and sharing the pics on social media for a couple of years. He is extremely pro-Trump and extremely anti-Obama, anti-immigrant, anti-women’s rights, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Which is exactly what anyone with any sense at all had been saying. Even at least one pundit who usually is virulently pro-Trump that I quoted yesterday: “If your first reaction to some evil person sending bombs to a variety of politicians on one side of the aisle is ‘FALSE FLAG,’ you are officially deranged.”So, yes, the mad bomber is clearly someone who has been taking the many times that Trump has referred to locking up his opponents, encouraged is supporters to assault, suggested that someone should shoot, and so forth and finally tried to act on it. A quick search of images in any search engine using the suspects name will turn up pictures of him at Trump rallies, holding up pro-Trump signs, wearing one of those damn MAGA hats and so forth. I’m not linking or posting to any of those because, frankly, I think people who commit these kinds of crimes also get off on the attention afterward. But there are things to know about him: Suspected Mad Bomber Cesar Sayoc likes Trump, bodybuilding, scantily clad women; hates Democrats, Clintons, Obamas, immigrants. Scroll to the end of that article for a list of the many times that the suspect has been arrested in the past, always getting fines and probation, even when he threatened to blow up the local utility and kill thousands of people the second time! So, I’m not surprised that this evil man was on some watch lists. And based on how incoherent and badly spelled his many anti-immigrant and anti-progressive rants on line are, I’m not surprised that he left enough evidence on those packages for officials to trace back to him.
But don’t let any one paint him as an anomaly or a nut job. Remind people of the facts: Study shows two-thirds of U.S. terrorism tied to right-wing extremists. Two-thirds of the terrorist acts that happen in the U.S. are by republican supporters who aren’t immigrants and aren’t muslim.
- The suspect is a native born U.S. citizen.
- The suspect is registered Republican.
- The suspect has proudly declared himself not just a Veteran for Trump, but a supporter of many of the most extreme Republican policies.
- The suspect has been publicly calling for and echoing Trump’s calls for violence against liberals, immigrants, and so forth.
Make America hate again: When political rhetoric turns violent . And the blame needs to be laid at the feed of Trump and all the Republican politicians and rightwing pundits who have been fanning the flames of hate for years and years.
And in case you have forgotten how many times that Trump has fanned those flames this year: This montage of Trump calling for violence shows him as a stupid thug rather than the president .
I was reminded of this incident by two different events recently. First, after a few weeks of working on my Halloween playlist, I took a dip into a couple of music streaming services to see what they were serving up on various Halloween channels. The other was a series of disturbing dreams I had in the wee small hours of a recent morning.
Quick digression: the psychological definition of a nightmare is an unpleasant dream evoking an emotional response which disturbs the sleep cycle. It doesn’t necessarily have to be scary to be a nightmare as far as psychologists are concerned, but it does have to actually make you wake up to qualify as a nightmare. So while colloquially we usually think of nightmares as bad dreams, usually invoking fear or despair, other kinds of emotions can be involved.
So, I’ve more than once had a nightmare where I woke up extremely angry. And that was very disturbing, especially during those initial moments of waking up where you don’t quite realize it was only a dream. I had a new one, this time, I woke up extremely annoyed. Three times in one night. The first two didn’t really have any element most people would think of a spooky: I was trying to set up some sound equipment for some kind of party or concert, and someone kept moving my toolbox full of patch cables. There were a number of people in the dream, most of whom I haven’t seen in person in many years. And they were all being uncharacteristically unhelpful. The second one involved someone I didn’t recognize who kept trying to make me go to this place I also didn’t recognize and pack up things that had been left behind by someone. Oddly, once I gave in, I recognized all of the blankets and towels (which were only a subset of the items) as ones that had belonged to my family when I was a child and a teen-ager. The third one was like a combination: I was walking somewhere intending to retrieve something I needed, and I noticed an open door of an apartment, I think, and inside I saw scattered around clothes that belong to me. When I was checking out the place and gathering things, people kept wandering in to try to take stuff from me—and they people each had these weird glowing eyes and I was absolutely convinced that they were undead or something similar.
Even then, when I woke up, I wasn’t feeling fear, but extreme annoyance that I had to deal with weird creatures and someone stealing my clothes when I really just wanted to go get the thing—whatever it was—that I had started out looking for. (And no, I don’t need any dream analysis. My subconscious is never subtle. I know what I’m feeling anxiety about right now.)
The thing was, even though my feeling at each awakening was annoyance—neither anger nor fear—there were still moments while I was waking up where I felt that disturbing confusion about what was real and what wasn’t. Which is its own kind of spooky.
Many Halloween playlists I see on various streaming services or that people post often contain songs that I don’t think are spooky at all. Many seem to be chosen because the title of the song has a tenuous connection to some spooky concepts, while the lyrics of the song are often just standard pop fare.
I happen to believe that a Halloween playlist should consist of tracks where the content of the track has some connection to ideas, moods, et cetera, that people associate with Halloween, trick or treating, monsters, and so forth. I make exceptions for instrumental tracks from movies and such that I personally find spooky. I realize that most of those don’t seem spooky if you don’t recognize where they are from (but some are very eery and really set a spooky mood even when you don’t recognize their source). Anyway, here is my 2018 Halloween playlist:
1. “It’s alive!” From the Young Frankenstein soundtrack. This isn’t a song, it’s the dialog for one of the funniest scenes in the movie, when Dr Frahnk-in-steen finds out that he put an abnormal brain in the body of his creation.
2. “Monster Mash” A blue grass cover of the classic Halloween song by a band called Hayseed Dixie. It’s quite fun.
3. “Science Fiction Double Feature” From the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the campy lyrics describe several classic sci fi thriller movies.
4. “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” by Julie Brown. “Everybody run! The Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!” and “…it’s like the whole school was totally coked or something!”
5. “Anything Can Happen On Halloween” by Tim Curry from the movie The Worse Witch. A fun song.
6. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (with narration in the middle by Vincent Price). A classic for Halloween. And you can dance to it!
7. “GhostBusters (I’m Not Afraid” by Fallout Boy. An interesting cover/re-imagining of the original Ghostbusters them recorded for the new GhostBusters movie.
8. “Rest in Peace” from Once More, With Feeling, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. “Whisper in a dead man’s ear doesn’t make it real.”
9. “Bad Moon Rising” by Mourning Ritual. A very creepy re-imagining of the old Creedence Clearwater Revival hit that I first heard in one of the spookiest, creepiest episodes of the Teen Wolf TV series. I can’t hear this song without reliving the scenes where Void Stiles was doing various horrific things.
10. “Monster Mash (featuring Black Magic” by Halloween FX Productions. A cute cover of the Halloween classic.
11. “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” from Little Shop of Horrors just fun!
12. “Haunted Honeymoon Main Title” by John Morris. A spooky instrumental from one of my favorite comedies ever. Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and Dom DeLuis in a hilarious send-up of 30s mystery radio shows and spooky forties movies.
13. “Teen Wolf Main Theme” by Dino Meneghin & Bloody Beetroots. The theme for the Teen Wolf series is just some really dramatic music.
14. “Theme from the Ghost and Mr. Chicken” – if you aren’t familiar with this comedy send up of various Hitchcock-esque movie tropes starring Don Knotts, you really need to Netflix it or something. And the organ music is suitably spooky and silly, at the same time.
15. “”Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” Yes, the theme song from the original cartoon series.
16. “Dark Shadows” the original eerie, spooky, haunting theme song from the ’60s gothic horror soap opera.
17. “Funeral March of a Marionette” an orchestral piece which was used as the theme for the old Alfred Hitchcock show.
18. “The Munster’s Theme” by Jack Marshall. A tiki-fied cover of the them song for the 1960s horror comedy series.
19. “Mamushka” by Raul Julia and Marc Shaiman. The silly show-stopper song from the theatrical Addams Family movie.
20. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers. The original, classic Halloween Novelty song.
Before I get further, let me get a couple of disclaimers out of the way: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time, so some people will want to dismiss anything I say on these topics out of hand. On the other hand, I learned my deep sense of social justice from that church and more specifically their holy book. I was the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away.
One of the big problems I had, again and again, was the many times that teachers and leaders in the church would insist that god’s love and mercy were unconditional—and then they would lay out a whole bunch of conditions that one must meet to earn that love. At first they said you had to believe in him order to get his love and mercy. And don’t forget obey him, or you won’t receive his love. And obey him in the right way, not the way other churches say to do it, or you won’t receive his love. And ignore these parts of the holy book, but these other parts you must interpret exactly as we say, or you won’t receive his love.
That’s an awful lot of conditions one must meet to qualify for supposedly unconditional divine love.
It’s not just unconditional divine love that the fundamentalist evangelicals don’t understand. They have a similar misapprehension of civil rights. Tony Perkins heads to Fox News to defend Trump administration’s latest attack on trans rights. This takes a little bit to unpack. If you missed the news this weekend, the New York Times got hold of a memo from the department of Health and Human Services that outlines how the government could erase all trans rights: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. More details became available quickly thereafter: The Trump Administration Wants to Define Gender as Biological Sex at Birth.
An important clue in this memo is the assertion that previous definitions of sex “allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”
Tony Perkins mention above is the leader of the Family Research Council, an evangelical fundamentalist hate group that spends all its time an energy not on helping families, but rather on attacking gay rights and transgender rights and so forth. And he has made a very similar argument for years: gay, lesbian, and trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections.
Which means he doesn’t understand what a civil right is: rights aren’t deserved. You have them because you exist, period. They aren’t privileges. The Declaration of Independence referred to rights as “inalienable”—they can’t be transferred or removed. We can argue about what is or isn’t a right, but not who has them. Everyone has them. The moment you argue that some categories of people shouldn’t have their rights protected, well, that’s taking you a very long way down the fascist road.
And it isn’t something that Christians should be fighting for. They are commanded to love everyone, including their enemies. And as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear, love isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s action. Love means lifting people up. Love means standing up for people. Love means doing good for people who disagree with you. Love means not just taking care of your own, but taking care of everyone who needs help.
Perkins and his ilk justify their opposition to the rights of transgender people by frequently making the claim that the Bible clear says that there are only two genders. It is true that the Bible frequently refers to two genders, but none of those references say that those two are the only possibilities, nor does it give a definition of those genders. While some portions make a big deal about what sorts of behaviors are appropriate for one gender or the other, other passages contradict those notions. And there there are a few places where the text asserts very insistently that gender is unimportant. Such as:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Galatians 3:28, Holy Bible, King James Version
Which seems to back the notion that god’s love really is unconditional, so maybe his so-called followers should stop trying to enforce divisions.
Note: The title comes from the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal
This year that also meant that a tree need to be transported. Not long after we moved to this place last year, I noticed an unfamiliar plant growing in the very smallest of the flower pots that used to sit on our porch at the old place. Once the leaves reached full size, I identified it as a Turkish Filbert (also know as a Eurasian Hazel), which is a relative of the American Hazel from which we get hazelnuts. In our old neighborhood one house up the street from us had a Turkish Filbert in the front yard, and I was used to seeing the distinctive filbert seed pods on the sidewalk each fall. I realized that the neighborhood squirrel had buried one of those seeds in my flowerpot.
Over the years we’d lived there, I was used to finding rotted peanuts and the occasional chestnut in the flowerpots whenever I put in new spot color flowers. This was the first time, as far as I know, that the squirrel gave us a filbert. And it was the first time one of the nuts buried in our flowerpots sprouted.
I took it as a sign that a squirrel god wanted us to grow the tree, and had thought I might be able to keep it going in a planter for a few years before needing to find it a forever home. It only grew to about 8 inches tall during our first summer, after all. Of course, it was also in the tiniest flowerpot I owned at the time.After it’s 9 leaves turned yellow and fell off last year, I transplanted the entire contents of the pot into a larger planter–one of four large ones I got to grow the irises I had salvaged from the flower bed we’d been allowed to use at the old place. I should have realized that the bigger planter, having a lot more room for roots, would mean that the tree would grow a lot faster in its second summer. Fortunately, our friend Jeri Lynn was amenable to trying the filbert in her new yard, so we had planned this fall to move it.
Before we got to that point, I had other work to do with the planters. Another of the pots that had come with us from the old place was this very cute terra cotta planter int he shape of a sea otter. I’d been growing pansies and violas and dianthus and similar annual flowers in it for years sitting either on our concrete porch at the old place, or sometimes on the concrete walkway or sitting in one of the flower beds.
Since the structure I call our veranda is a deck sticking out the side of an apartment building, and there are neighbors with their own decks below us, all of my flower pots and such are either completely contained, or they have catch basins under them, to prevent overflow from watering sending muddy water down on the neighbors. I’d found a gorgeous, ocean-colored glazed dish that was big enough for the otter and left the otter in the dish over the winter. I didn’t think about how, during the rainiest part of the winter, this meant that the otter was sitting in at least an inch of water. Which means that the potting soil inside the otter was constantly 100% waterlogged. So when temperatures dropped below freezing, the otter was broken. Badly broken. So broken that in the spring I couldn’t get water to stay in the potting soil long enough to sustain the flowers.
My husband found me a new otter planter, which I have now placed in the glazed dish on little lifts that keep the pot above any water in the dish.
But what to do with the old otter? I couldn’t bring myself to putting it in the trash. So I suggested to my husband (who is slightly less sentimental than me) that he should wait until sometime I was gone, and he could dispose of the otter, and I could pretend she has swum away.
When I mentioned this on line, our friend Katrina asked why I couldn’t transform the otter into art by burying it in a large planter, so the otters head and forepaws (which are still mostly intact) was visible above the soil, and plant a bunch more of the irises around it, so it looked like the otter was in a bed of seaweed.
Which was absolutely brilliant.
I finally found a planter that would work, and I did exactly that a couple of weeks ago. The irises you can see in the photo above came out of the planter with the filbert. I planted 9 iris rhizomes in that planter with the tree, and by the end of summer I had 18 iris plants in the planter (the other three planters didn’t double, but all of the planters had at least some new irises by the fall). So I dug up about of third of them from the end furthest from the tree (figuring their roots were less likely to be tangled with the tree’s root), and put them in the new planter.
Saturday night, after our monthly writers’ meeting, we carried the planter down to our friend Matt’s truck, and he transported it to Jeri Lynn’s. Then on Sunday I drove up, helped them transplant the filbert and the remaining irises, then took the planter back home.
There, I filled the planter with all the remaining unplanted rhizomes (there were a lot of irises at the old place), and covered them with potting soil. It’s a lot denser that I’d packed them in any of the planters last year, but I figure they’ve been sitting in a box for two growing seasons, and a lot of them probably aren’t viable.
Don’t get me wrong, every one of them might sprout and I have dozens of irises coming up in that planter next year. And I won’t mind a bit!
I just hope that some of the irises in the other planters actually bloom next year. I assumed that this year they were in a recovery mode from being dug up in the spring, rather than fall as you’re supposed to, and so on.
Wish me luck!
There was no sign that the car had been broken into (one of the reason we have several iPods salvaged from the junk pile at my husband’s workplace is that we have had about four previous iPods stolen from over the last ten years and two cars), so I knew the most likely cause was that the iPod was too cold. I opened up the console, dug the iPod out while trying not to disconnect its cable and it was definitely ice cold. Electronic devices with internal rechargeable batteries have temperature sensors that deactivate the system if the device is either too cold and too hot, because the chemical processes inside the rechargeable batteries don’t operate as efficiently (and safely) outside certain ranges.
This made me realize that the overnight low temps are cold enough that I probably should sit in the car letting the engine idle for a couple of minutes before driving. And this is yet another sign of the changing of the seasons: sometimes it’s cold enough to disable the iPod. That probably means I should bring swap out the iPod in the car to change out the music a bit.
And that reminded me that while I have been thinking about a new Halloween playlist, all I have actually been doing is listening to all my old ones (I usually make a new one each year). Combine that with a conversation between two friends on social media about playlists for NaNoWriMo, and I spent more than a bit of my free time this week setting up a new Halloween playlist and a possible NaNoWriMo playlist.
I love making playlists. Given that there are literally thousands in my library, I probably love it just a bit much. Writing playlist are assembled in several different ways. Some songs I associate with certain characters. Lots of songs simply evoke moods. A good friend always remarks on how many of the songs in my writing playlists have lyrics. He says he can’t write while listening to people talking or singing words. I get that, and I have a few writing lists that are entirely instrumental. The key, of me, is that the songs that have lyrics can only go into a writing list if I know the song well enough that I don’t have to actively process the words to follow the song.
Many of my writing playlists are intended to help me think about writing while doing other things. Listening to my playlist, “A Dark Lord’s Lady” during my evening walk, or while riding the bus, or walking from the bus to the office, or while working on certain tasks at work make keeps me in the mood to write scenes related to one certain characters and subplots in a couple of the books in my fantasy series, for example. Whereas the playlist, “Devil in the Trickster Details” has me thinking about a completely different set of characters and their subplots across….. many more of the books in the series.
To make a new list for this year’s NaNoWriMo requires me to decide which of many projects to actually work on this November. And that’s a problem, because I’ve been running the Red Queen’s Race in regards to a bunch of writing projects for the last few years, and can’t quite manage to actually finish anything. Which is frustrating, but also entirely my fault.
I think I know what I’m going to do. And I have assembled a new NaNoWriMo playlist (currently titled “A Heart Rattling World Ending”) with 55 songs that focus on characters in a couple of the stalled projects. But I might change me mind by the time November 1 rolls around. If you happen to be doing NaNoWriMo this year, and want a writing buddy, I’m Fontfolly over there, so say “hi.”
Compounding the problem for many of us it the grinding compassion fatigue/outrage fatigue/existential fear fatigue that world events have been inflicting on so many of us. There were literal mobs roving streets of cities this weekend looking for liberals and queers and anyone else the alt-right thinks of as enemies. They beat a bunch of people up, and in at least three cases the cops arrested the victims. It should be no surprise, then, that many of us are having trouble getting into the mood for holidays, no matter how much we may love Halloween. Let alone getting in the mood to write a novel.
But I refuse to give up.
In this kind of social/political atmosphere, creating is an act of rebellion. Having fun that doesn’t come at someone else’s expense is an act of rebellion. I’m trying to remember that. Let’s all try to accomplish some creativity and celebration together, shall we?